Efforts to combat heroin problem will continue under Gov.-elect

On Jan. 21, 2015, the governor’s mansion in Annapolis will officially change hands, as Gov.-elect Larry Hogan is officially sworn in to start his four-year term in the state’s highest office.

While Hogan has been largely silent about specific issues in the weeks since his historic election victory back in November, indicating that he will wait until after his inauguration to discuss key issues, he has spoken publicly about at least one of our state’s largest public health and safety issues: heroin.

Hogan not only characterized the drug as the leading crime problem in Maryland, but also outlined his plans for both convening a task force of experts to discuss solutions and, perhaps more significantly, declaring a state of emergency concerning the state’s ongoing struggles with the drug.

There is certainly no denying that heroin has emerged as a very real and very frightening problem in our state. Indeed, 2013 saw more heroin-related deaths than homicides, while the number of heroin-related deaths in the first half of 2014 increased by 46 percent from the same time last year.

All this is not to say that the state hasn’t already taken steps to address the heroin epidemic, as Gov. Martin O’Malley signed an executive order this past summer calling for the formation of an overdose-prevention council, while a team of experts is currently examining autopsy reports related to heroin overdoses in an attempt to identify trends.

In addition, the state has done the following:

  • Initiated a public awareness campaign.
  • Increased law enforcement efforts.
  • Facilitated the use of naloxone, which can counteract a heroin overdose, by emergency responders.

“We’re going to do it,” said Hogan of declaring a state of emergency. “I think it’s just going to shine more light on the subject. It’s going to make people pay more attention to it.”

It’s encouraging to see state officials not only becoming more aware of our state’s struggles with heroin, but also being willing to consider solutions outside of just incarceration.

Source: The Washington Post, “Hogan says he will declare heroin ’emergency’ once sworn in as Md. Governor,” Jenna Johnson, Dec. 6, 2014

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